On June 23, 2020, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule addressing the circumstances under which a fiduciary of a qualified retirement plan can base investment decisions on socially conscious factors.
What is Socially Conscious Investing?
Socially conscious investing, otherwise known by the acronym ESG, is a form of investing designed to promote social goals. Under an ESG strategy, an investor screens potential investments based on environmental, social and governance criteria. Environmental criteria consider how a company’s business practices treat the environment. Social criteria consider how a company manages its relationship with its employees, customers and its community. Governance criteria considers a company’s management practices, such as executive pay and shareholder rights.
Under What Circumstances is ESG Investing Allowed?
The proposed rule reiterates that the purpose of a qualified retirement plan is to maximize the retirement benefits of the plan participants. To that end, investment decisions must be made with one goal in mind – maximizing investment performance. Because ESG subordinates investment returns to non-financial objectives, it may run afoul of the fiduciary standard set forth in ERISA.
The proposed rule makes five points:
- ERISA requires plan fiduciaries to make investment decisions based on financial considerations “relevant to the risk-adjusted economic value of a particular investment or investment course of action”.
- ERISA’s “exclusive purpose” rule prohibits a fiduciary from subordinating the interests of plan participants in retirement income to non-pecuniary goals.
- A fiduciary must consider all investments available to meet their duty of prudence and loyalty under ERISA.
- ESG factors in investment decisions can be a valid pecuniary consideration if required economic analysis establishes that the ESG investment presents economic risks or opportunities that a qualified investment professional would find acceptable.
- A 401(k) plan may provide designated investment alternatives.
In announcing the proposed rule, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said that:
Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan. Rather, ERISA plans should be managed with unwavering focus on a single, very important social goal: providing for the retirement security of American workers.
PlanGen, a member of the RMC Group, announces that Roxana Salem, Senior Report Developer, will retire effective April 3, 2020.
Roxana has been with PlanGen since 2008. For over a decade, Roxana has been an integral part of the PlanGen team, working closely with the President of PlanGen to develop and work on quality control for the various custom report applications that produce comprehensive plan design illustrations, executive summaries, and plan comparisons for pension retirement plans.
Roxana has big plans for her retirement. She has been an avid student of genealogy and has provided amateur search services for individuals. After retiring, she plans to begin the process of attaining professional Board Certification in order to meet the rigorous standards required to access the repositories of courthouses, libraries, and archives.
Roxana is also a licensed falconer and will now have the time to engage in the practice. She may pursue trapping an immature hawk in the fall, caring for it and training it over the winter and releasing it in the spring. This will markedly improve the young raptor’s survival rate into adulthood. She will also have a lot more time to take long walks in the woods with her dog, a Borzoi named Varushka.
“Roxana has been an invaluable asset to PlanGen over the years,” said Todd Trzaskos. “She has been a wonderful co-worker offering good-humored skepticism and witty conversation. We truly will miss her. Even though we may be able to call on her for consulting now and again, we realize that she has great plans for her time away from the computer screen, and we wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
On behalf of RMC Group, we congratulate Roxana on her achievements throughout her career and wish her the best of luck in retirement. For more information about PlanGen, click here.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. It is 880 pages. This article provides a summary of the some of the key provisions relating to retirement plans.
1. Covid-19 Related Distributions
The CARES Act provides that section 72(t) of the Internal Revenue Code shall not apply to coronavirus-related distributions from certain qualified retirement plans. This means that a plan participant will not be subject to the 10% penalty for early withdrawal, as long as the aggregate amount of the withdrawal does not exceed $100,000. The term “aggregate” refers to all plans maintained by the participant’s employer and any member of a controlled group.
Eligible retirement plans include:
- Tax-qualified retirement plans
- Tax-deferred section 403(b) plans
- Section 457(b) governmental sponsored deferred compensation plans
The exemption from section 72(t) is effective for distributions made during 2020 – calendar year 2020, not plan year 2020. In addition, the exemption is available only to a plan participant:
- Who is diagnosed with Covid-19
- Whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with Covid-19
- Who is furloughed or laid off, has work hours reduced or is unable to work due to lack of childcare or is otherwise unable to work due to Covid-19
An employer is required to confirm that the participant meets one of these conditions but can rely on the participant’s certification.
The participant can elect whether to repay the distribution or to have the distribution included in income. If the participant elects to repay the distribution, it must be repaid in full within three years after the date the distribution is received. A participant who elects to not repay the distribution is taxed on the distribution ratably over three taxable years beginning with the year of the distribution.
2. Plan Loans
The CARES Act increases the amount of loans that a “qualified individual” can take from a retirement plan. Beginning on March 27, 2020, for a 180-day period, the loan amount is increased to the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of the participant’s nonforfeitable accrued benefit under the plan. Prior to this change, the amounts were $50,000 and 50%, respectively.
The CARES Act also changes the terms of loan repayments. If the due date of any loan repayment occurs between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020, the due date is extended for one year. Subsequent due dates are extended for one year as well.
An employer may need to amend its plan document in order to provide these enhanced rights to its employees.
3. Required Minimum Distributions
The CARES Act provides a temporary waiver of required minimum distributions for participants who turn age 72 in calendar year 2020.
4. Minimum Required Contributions
The CARES Act delays the due date of any employer-contribution to a defined benefit plan required to be made during calendar year 2020 to January 1, 2021. However, any delayed payment accrues interest from the original due date to the date of payment. In addition, an employer may elect to treat the plan’s adjusted funding target attainment percentage (“AFTAP”) for the last plan year ending before January 1, 2020, as the AFTAP for the plan year, which includes calendar year 2020.
5. Filing Deadlines
The CARES Act gives the Department of Labor the right to extend any filing deadline under ERISA for a period of one year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
6. Education Assistance
The CARES Act amends section 127(c) of the Internal Revenue Code to include repayment of an employee’s qualified education loan in the definition of non-taxable “educational assistance”. The payments must be made before January 1, 2021, and are limited to $5,250.
7. Plan Amendments
Some of the provisions of the CARES Act are voluntary, not mandatory. For example, the provisions regarding coronavirus-related distributions and increased loan amounts apply only if the plan document permits such distributions and loans in the first place. As a result, a Plan Sponsor may need to amend its plan document in order to afford its plan participants the ability to access such distributions and loans.
A Plan Sponsor can administer the plan in accordance with the necessary amendments, even before the amendments are actually adopted. However, the amendments must be adopted by the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2022.
The PBGC has announced the extension of filing deadlines, including premium payments. Any filing due after April 1, 2020, can be delayed until July 15, 2020. While this is not part of the CARES Act, it is something that affects defined benefit pension plans.
Some of these provisions will require further guidance, and we will update you as that guidance is issued. If you have any questions how the CARES Act affects your qualified retirement plan, contact RMC Group.
*Revised April 21, 2020
With Groundhog Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about spring. (Or time to at least hope that springtime is coming, anyway.) And whether Punxsutawney Phil or the local groundhog in your city sees his shadow or not, we here at RMC Group have you covered.
Get Ready For Spring
Although everyone thinks of cleaning when it comes to spring, there are a number of things you should do to make sure your home is ready when the weather changes. Below is a selection of maintenance tasks from the National Center for Healthy Housing (you can see the full list HERE).
- Check to make sure your roof’s shingles are in good condition, and check your attic for any possible roof leaks that should be repaired.
- Look for peeling paint and repair/touch up as needed.
- Check for signs of leaks at window and door sills and use caulking or weather stripping to seal.
- Clean your dryer vent and make sure exhaust ducts are clear.
- Make sure there are no puddles or wet spots in your basement or crawlspace.
- Look for signs of rodents, roaches, termites, etc. Call an exterminator if you suspect an infestation.
- Clean your gutters and downspouts.
- Clean air conditioner coils and drain pans.
- Check/replace the batteries your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Replace filters in your air conditioner and dehumidifier.
- Store winter heaters, ensuring that liquid-fuel heaters are completely emptied. These should be stored outside, if possible.
What? 6 More Weeks of Winter…
Well, you can take solace in the fact that spring will be here eventually. In the meantime, here are some quick tips from Johns Hopkins University to avoid the “winter blues” and get through those long weeks of waiting.
- Keep active. Exercise releases endorphins that will elevate your mood.
- Eat well. High-sugar foods and large amounts of caffeine can feed depression and actually decrease your energy level. Foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and lean meats can help your immune system.
- Go to the light. Bring as much light into your life as possible, by spending time outdoors, opening your shades so your home receives more natural light, or even get help from a “light box.”
- Get your rest. Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning. You’ll have more energy during the day.
Of course, if you have strong feelings of depression, please seek assistance from friends, family or a trusted health-care provider. There are people ready to help, whatever the season.
Sidebar: Time For An Insurance Review?
If an annual insurance review wasn’t included in your New Year’s resolutions, why not get it done while you’re in the cleaning and organizing mood this spring? Your life changes over the course of a year — sometimes in monumental ways. That means your insurance needs can change, too.
At RMC Group, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time utilizing all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 239-298-8210. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!
Reposted with permission from Safeco Insurance®
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Setting Every Community Up For Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”). The SECURE Act is probably the most significant piece of retirement legislation since the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Here are a few of its most relevant provisions.
- Increasing the Age for Required Minimum Distributions
Under current law, participants are required to begin taking minimum distributions from a retirement plan beginning the later of (i) April 1 of the year after they turn 70½ or (ii) the year in which they retire. The SECURE Act raises the age for required minimum distributions to 72. This change in law applies to individuals who turn 70½ after December 31, 2019. It does not affect people who have already begun receiving their required minimum distributions or who turned 70½ last year and are, as a result, required to begin taking distributions by April 1, 2020.
- Elimination of “Stretch IRA”
Under current law, if the beneficiary of a decedent’s IRA was a so-called “designated beneficiary”, the beneficiary could take required minimum distributions from the IRA over the lifetime of the beneficiary. Under current law, the term “designated beneficiary” could include the decedent’s adult children. Under the SECURE Act, most adult children will no longer be considered a “designated beneficiary”. As a result, distributions from the decedent’s IRA must be completed within ten years of the death of the decedent. A decedent’s spouse is still considered a “designated beneficiary”.
- Coverage of Part-Time Employees
Under current law, an employer can exclude any employee who does not work at least 1,000 hours in a year. The SECURE Act changes the law for 401(k) plans. Under the SECURE Act, a 401(k) plan will be required to permit any employee who works at least 500 hours for three consecutive years to contribute to the plan. The SECURE Act does not change the rules regarding employer contributions to a 401(k) plan. So, employers are not required to make contributions for these so-called “long-term part-time employees”.
This change in the law goes into effect beginning in 2021. This means that the soonest that a long-term part-time employee must be allowed to contribute to a 401(k) plan is 2024.
- Lifetime Disclosure Requirements
Under current law, there is no incentive for sponsors of defined contribution plans to offer a lifetime annuity distribution option. The SECURE Act encourages the use of a lifetime annuity distribution option by requiring sponsors of defined contribution plans to provide a “lifetime income disclosure” on a participant’s benefit statement at least annually, even if the plan does not offer a lifetime annuity distribution option. The disclosure is an estimate of a participant’s monthly benefit, if the participant were to elect a qualified joint and survivor annuity or a single life annuity.
The Secretary of Labor is required to issue a model disclosure by December, 2020. This requirement becomes effective no more than one year after the Secretary has issued the model disclosure.
- Annuity Safe Harbor
The second way in which the SECURE Act encourages the use of annuity contracts by defined contribution plans is by providing a fiduciary safe harbor for plan sponsors. The decision whether to offer an annuity option in a defined contribution plan occurs before a plan is adopted. As a result, the decision to offer the annuity option is not a fiduciary act. However, the selection of the annuity provider is a fiduciary act, and a plan sponsor could be held liable for the financial well-being of the annuity provider. The SECURE Act provides a safe harbor for the plan sponsor as long as the annuity provider represents that, for the prior seven years and on a going-forward basis, the annuity provider (i) is licensed by a state to offer guaranteed retirement income contracts, (ii) files audited financial statements, and (iii) maintains sufficient reserves to satisfy the requirements of all states where the annuity provider conducts business. This safe harbor is available effective January 1, 2020.
- Earliest Age for Distributions from Defined Benefit Plan
Most defined benefit plans permit distributions to a working employee upon attainment of a certain age. Prior to 2006, that age was 65. After 2006, that age became 62. The SECURE Act permits in-service distributions to employees as early as the attainment of age 59½. This is not a requirement, but a plan provision that an employer can adopt. It becomes effective beginning after December 31, 2019.
- Adoption of Plan after Close of Tax Year
Under current law, an employer must adopt a qualified plan by the end of its tax year in order to deduct its contributions to the plan for that tax year, even though contributions do not have to be made until the due date, including extensions, of its tax return for such year. So, for example, an employer would have had to have created its plan by December 31, 2019, in order to deduct its contributions in 2019, even if the contributions are not actually made until September 15, 2020. The SECURE Act changes this and provides that the plan can be adopted as late as the due date, including extensions, of the employer’s tax return. This change is effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2019.
- Pooled Employer Plans
One of the reasons that a small employer might hesitate to adopt a qualified plan is the costs inherent in set-up and administration. Large employers have greater negotiating power and are able to reduce their costs. Current law permits unrelated employers to come together under a single plan as long as there is some “commonality of interest” among the employers. Under current law, “commonality of interest” requires that the employers be engaged in the same industry or share a common geographic location. The SECURE Act permits unrelated employers to participate in a “pooled employer plan”, even without this so-called “commonality of interest”, as long as the plan has a single trustee, named fiduciary, and administrator and offers the same investment options to all plan participants. This provision becomes effective for plan years beginning after December 21, 2021.
There are two ways to create a safe harbor 401(k) plan. The first is through a matching employer contribution. The second is through a non-elective employer contribution. Under current law, a safe harbor 401(k) plan must be adopted before the beginning of the plan year and the employees must receive notice of the adoption of the safe harbor plan before the beginning of the plan year. The SECURE Act changes the rules with respect to a non-elective employer contribution safe harbor plan. It eliminates the requirement that participants receive notice prior to the start of the plan year. In addition, it permits a non-elective safe harbor plan to be adopted at any time during the plan year.
- Penalty for Failure to Timely File Form 5500
In order to pay for some of these provisions, the penalty for failure to timely file the Form 5500 was increased to $250 per day with a maximum of $150,000. For obvious reasons, it is vital that a plan sponsor choose its plan administrator wisely.
You are a successful business owner. You put a lot of hard work into building your business, and you are finally reaping the benefits. However, there may come a time when you’ll want to step back and triumphantly wash your hands of the business. How do you intend to plan for your financial needs in retirement?
Many business owners plan on using the sale of their business to fund their retirement. However, they usually don’t take into consideration the additional costs associated with the sale of a business. Expenses such as tax liabilities and brokers’ fees can eat away at the funds you planned on using in your retirement.
Having a qualified retirement plan through your business can help you provide for your retirement. In addition, it can potentially save you thousands in tax liabilities and benefit both your business and the people who work for it—even if you’re the only one.
Are these plans the right choice for your business? Before answering this question and looking at potential options, let’s define what it means to have a qualified retirement plan.
What is a Qualified Employee Retirement Plan?
A qualified retirement plan is one that meets the criteria set forth in section 410(a) of the US federal tax code and the guidelines established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). These guidelines were established in the 1970s in order to secure workers’ retirement income.
Many companies offer non-qualified plans as part of their total benefits package in the form of deferred compensation or executive bonuses, but these programs have their drawbacks. Contributions to these plans are taxed before they are deposited, reducing the overall amount you have to save.
In contrast, contributions to a qualified retirement plan may be tax-deductible by the employer. In addition, the contributions are not taxable to the employee when made and grow tax-free until withdrawal, when they are taxed to the employee. In order to be a qualified retirement plan, a plan must comply with the rules set forth in section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Any company can qualify to offer some type of qualified retirement plan. The most common of these plans for single-employee businesses are defined-contribution plans, generally because business owners assume this is their best option.
Under a defined contribution plan, an employer makes a certain contribution for its employees, and the retirement benefit depends upon the performance of the plan’s investments. The employees are not guaranteed a specific benefit. The most well-known type of defined-contribution plan is the 401(k) plan, which allows employees to make pre-tax contributions to the plan. Often an employer will match a portion of the employees’ contributions.
Despite the popularity of defined contribution plans, they’re not always the best option for single owner businesses—especially for those with no other employees, a high income, and a desire to save a lot on an ongoing basis. For this kind of business, a defined benefit plan could be the best option.
Before we discuss the five main reasons why you should have a qualified retirement plan, you need to understand the types of plans that are available to you.
What Is a Defined Benefit Plan?
A defined benefit plan is a qualified retirement plan that defines the benefit to be paid to an employee after retirement. The employer is then required to make contributions to the plan in an amount sufficient to fund the employee’s retirement benefit. Contributions may vary from year to year. This is different than a defined contribution plan where the annual contribution is determined by formula, but the amount of the benefit may vary depending upon investment performance.
There are limits to how much an employer can contribute to a defined benefit plan. These limits are determined based on the ages of the employer’s employees, expected investment returns, and the overall benefit to be paid by the plan at retirement. However, a defined benefit plan has higher contribution limits than a defined contribution plan. A defined benefit plan is ideal for small businesses with few employees looking to maximize their annual contributions and retirement benefits.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore the five reasons you need a qualified retirement plan.
Reason #1: Tax Advantage
One of the main benefits of offering a qualified retirement plan is the potential tax savings. For many business owners, the idea that they’re obligated to make annual contributions to a qualified retirement plan is a turn-off. It’s a major commitment of funds.
However, many contributions to qualified retirement plans are tax-deductible. Whatever contribution you make annually to a qualified plan can possibly be written off, reducing your business’s overall tax burden. This is one reason that plans like 401(k) plans are popular, but it also goes for defined benefit retirement plans like pensions.
In addition, an employee does not pay income taxes on the contribution until distribution of his benefit after retirement. This means that you, as a business owner, can take advantage of two tax savings, while managing to save sufficient funds for a comfortable retirement.
Reason #2: Attract Top Talent
If you’re looking to hire some help with your business, offering a retirement plan for employees will attract high-quality talent to your organization and give them an extra incentive to stick around.
Larger companies that don’t offer qualified retirement plans appear lackluster to potential workers because most major companies do, in fact, offer some kind of plan. On the other hand, for small businesses, a tremendous opportunity exists to elevate themselves above the competition by offering something that many smaller firms don’t.
No matter the size of your business or firm, offering retirement solutions and pension plans can make sure you have only the best talent working for you.
Reason #3: Your Employees Need It
As an employer, you already do a tremendous service to the economy by providing needed goods and services and creating jobs. You can add to that service even further by helping to solve the retirement issue many people face—just give them a concrete solution to the issue.
According to a report by the Center for Financial Services Innovation, 42% of Americans aren’t saving anything at all for retirement. If more employers offered qualified, tax-deductible plans, it’s safe to assume that more people would save for retirement.
Reason #4: You Need It
As a business owner, you need retirement savings just as much as your employees do. When you offer a qualified retirement plan through your business, you can enroll as well. The retirement crisis is not just happening among workers. Somewhere around half of all small business owners only save 10% of their income for retirement. One out of four doesn’t save anything at all.
Without an established retirement plan in place, business owners are generally faced with one option: sell the business to fund retirement. This tactic comes with a lot of uncertainties, including the possibility of a lower-than-expected asking price, or having tax burdens eat into your nest egg. Without a plan, you will be under-prepared at a point when there won’t be much time to act otherwise.
Reason #5: You Can Save a Lot
While qualified retirement plans may seem pricey to set up and maintain, they come with the benefit of high limits to contributions. Individual business owners making more than $80,000 a year can save a good portion of those funds in a defined-benefit plan, making these plans ideal for high-income business owners who are nearing retirement.
You can even start saving money by just setting up a plan. For the first three years, businesses get a $500 tax credit in exchange for initiating a plan.
For business owners, setting up a qualified retirement plan is a crucial step in preparing for a comfortable retirement. Without one, you may not have the resources available to provide for yourself if the unexpected happens.
Now that you know why you need a qualified retirement plan, it’s time to take the next step. Contact an RMC professional today to determine the best way to set yourself up for the future.
The time is now.
It’s the fourth quarter…
As we like to say ‘tis the season and no I don’t mean for the holidays.
‘Tis the season for qualified retirement plans.
First and foremost, every single business out there should have some type of qualified retirement plan.
These are absolutely fabulous planning tools and your business clients they need to have these plans.
You need to introduce them to these concepts.
So there’s a lot of plans out there but we can help you find the most suitable plan for your clients.
Allow us to help you whether it’s
- A 401(k) plan
- or a Profit Sharing Plan
- or some type of Defined Benefit Plan
- or Traditional Plan
- or how about a Cash Balance Plan
- or even a Fully-Insured 412(e)(3) Plan
We have the right answers for your clients.
We are the experts so you do not have to be.
It’s a win-win for everybody!
For your clients, they get a fabulous retirement plan benefit for them and their business and all in a potentially tax-favored basis.
For you, you get to introduce them to this concept.
You get to be their hero!
It’s your value-added and you can do this all about growing your practice as well.
So it’s the fourth quarter…
Is it too late for these plans?
We can establish plans all the way up through December 31st of this year.
That’s right 12/31!
Now we don’t recommend that you wait that long, but we do have the ability.
We’ve got the experience and we’ve got the expertise to literally do last-minute plans all the way through 12/31.
So don’t hesitate!
Please contact us now.
Let us help you introduce these concepts to your client and we can give your client an invaluable benefit that they’ll need for the rest of their life.
- Maximum compensation for plan purposes is $285,000
- Maximum monthly benefit for defined benefit plans ages 62 to 65 is the lesser of 100% of compensation or $19,166.67 with an annual benefit $230,000
- Highly Compensated Employee compensation $130,000+
- Maximum Defined Contribution / Profit Sharing Contribution $57,000
- Maximum SEP Contribution $57,000
- Maximum 401(k) Contribution $19,500. Catch-up Contribution for age 50 and over $6,500
- Maximum SIMPLE Contribution $13,500
Click here for a PDF copy of the 2020 limits.